Immune Power: Herbal First Aid Kit

Between the crazy Corona virus, regular influenza and seasonal colds, it feels like a dangerous world out there. Add in the misery of seasonal allergies and many people are struggling with breathing, feeling congested and anxious about their health. 

Here at Innisfree Farm, we have been busy making Fire Cider, Cough Syrup, Sore Throat Spray, Sinus Clearing Steam Inhalation and Immune Building Tonics. These will be available in a couple of days, once we have labelled everything and we are still able to package up parcels for the post office (hooray for postal workers!).

But I also thought some of you with home herbal collections may want to try your hand at making a few things for yourselves. If you have a garden, there may already be things growing that you can pick and use. And last but not least, think about planting a medicine garden now for use over the summer and into next winter. 

So, following up from the last post in middle of March, here are some more of the recipes we make here at Innisfree Farm in our pharmacy and medicine making classes, as well as some more kitchen cupboard remedies. We’ll write another newsletter soon with ideas for growing a medicine garden.

Get started making medicines

Just as with cooking, read your recipe carefully and ensure you have all supplies and all equipment needed, and ensure you have uninterrupted time Clean your working area and set up everything you will need

Always label everything you make, whether it’s finished or in process. It’s far too easy to forget what you have done when they all start to look the same on the shelf. The label should include the product name, a list of all the ingredients (preferably with the largest amount listed first and then down in order to the least amount), the date it was prepared, percentage of alcohol (if used), proportion of plant material to menstruum (solvent) ie. 1:5, 1:2, how to use, warnings (i.e. FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY), appropriate dosages and any other information you might want to recall. 

A separate file or log book with sheets listing the recipes, each batch and what went right or wrong will be useful over the long term.

Kitchen cupboard medicine for immune health

Depending on your climate you may already have some herbs growing in the garden that could be helpful in fighting viruses. A hot herbal tea is medicinal anyways, because the steam and warmth will loosen mucus and create a hostile environment for a virus known to prefer a cold dry surface. 

Sage, rosemary and thyme will over winter where we live here on the west coast and it is easy to go outside and pick a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary or a few sage leaves. Just give them a rub between your fingers to release the scents and put them in a teapot, add boiling water, put the lid on and steep for 10 minutes, then sweeten with honey as desired, sip and enjoy. 

Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper, are considered warming herbs and are also rich in essential oils with some immune stimulating or antimicrobial properties. All of these are Chai spices in fact and would be good in a tea. 

Mustard plaster for chest infections

If you have a chest infection with a nasty, rattling cough, some mucus production with yellow to greenish colors, a mustard plaster maybe just what you need. Mustard contains the glucosinolates that are very rubefacient and vaso-dilating on the surface, warming the lungs and softening and loosening mucus. They are sulfur compounds that are volatile and breathing them in, as well as some trans dermal absorption provides some antimicrobial qualities in the lungs as well. Do not do this if you have skin rashes or sores on the upper chest or upper back. Do not do this in young children or with anyone who would be unable to indicate discomfort to you in case of it getting too hot. 

  • mix 1 Tbsp mustard powder and 4 Tbsp flour with hot water to form a paste
  • fold into a thin, clean cloth (1 layer of cotton tea towel or a few layers of cheesecloth) 
  • lay pack over chest and cover with an old towel
  • use a hot water bottle on top if desired 
  • leave on approx 20 minutes unless there is discomfort
  • check underneath very 5 minutes – it should be hot and red but not burning!
  • remove and wipe area with cotton balls dipped in grapeseed, almond or coconut oil to remove residues then cleanse with soapy water 

And from The Herbal Dispensary

Essential Oil Spritzer 

These are wonderfully simple to make, can be customized to all sorts of preferences, and unless you use sticky, resinous essential oils, then you should be able to reuse the bottle and spritzer mechanism at least a few times. They mist out essential oils in water which serves to hydrate the air in a room. This is beneficial because dry mucus membranes (nasal passages) increases risk of viral entry and infection. 

The terpene rich essential oils from evergreens (pine, fir, spruce, cedar, cypress, juniper) are especially useful because research in Japan suggests they can all increase white blood cell activity significantly and provide immune stimulating effects when inhaled. Essential oils that exhibit marked microbial activity (eucalyptus, oregano, lemon, tea tree, myrrh, ravensara) may also be used. 

Vodka 5 mL (1 tsp.)

essential oils 40 drops (approx. 2 mL) of a blend as desired

pure water 150 mL

Glass spritzer or spray bottle – if in B.C. or Canada try

Put the vodka into the bottle and add the essential oils, then top up with water and shake well. More resinous oils may block the spritzer tube or nozzle, which can sometimes be cleaned with rubbing alcohol. 

If you cannot track down the spritzer bottles, don’t worry about it, just put a few drops of essential oil into a pan of water on a wood stove or even in a saucer on a radiator where it can evaporate into the room. You can also use the same oils as a steam inhalation, five or six drops only, in a non-plastic basin or bowl, with boiling water and a towel over your head. Inhale carefully at first – it will be hot and strong. 

Echinacea and Slippery Elm lozenges for throat infections

These are sweet and tasty, mucilaginous and slippery, soothing, cooling and coating to the throat, anti-microbial and immune stimulating 

25 g chopped dried Echinacea root 

150 mL apple cider vinegar

covered, simmer on low for 10 minutes, cool

strain and squeeze out herbal material and discard

Add 150 mL honey to the herbal vinegar

simmer, uncovered, until mixture thickens and reduces by approximately half volume

allow to cool. 

Stir in 50 mL Usnea tincture (at 1:3 strength) and 20 drops of peppermint essential oil

add Slippery Elm powder to make a paste

pinch off small pieces and form into little balls then flatten slightly and set to dry

when they are dried store them in a dry, airtight container, away from heat

Sore throat spray

This is soothing, anti-spasmodic for paroxysmal coughing and has anti-microbial properties. Plus, it tastes good! In the summer when there is plenty to pick, we have made this using a fresh hydrosol of peppermint (made very simply, stove top style, no still), but during the winter months, a strong tea will work 

15 ml each of tinctures: Sage, Cinnamon bark, Oregon grape and Clove bud

15 ml of Peppermint tea (double strength i.e. made with 30 g dried herb in 250 mL water)

20 ml Honey water (2 Tbsp honey in 20 ml hot water) 

Dissolve honey in hot water. Add tinctures. Add peppermint tea. 

50 mL spray bottle 

Shake well and spray as required.

Keep refrigerated. Use within 6 months 

Cough syrup

Make syrup with Althea off. (Marshmallow root)

    27 g dried root and  370 ml cold water – Macerate 12 hours

    Press out the herb and bring liquid to a very low boil.

    Dissolve 600 g sugar in hot liquid

    Boil again then skim/strain

 Take 10 g of each

    Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice root)

    Marrubium vulgare (Horehound leaf)

    Sambucus nigra (Elder berries)

    Angelica archangelica (Angelica root)


other herbs that can be substituted here if you cannot get any of the above: 

Inula helenium (elecampane root)

Prunus serotine (wild cherry bark)

Alnus rubra (red alder bark)

Ligusticum porterii (osha)

Rosa canina or sp. (rose hips)

Add to 750 ml cold water. Bring to simmer and reduce down to 500 ml

Add 6 g Chondrus crispus (Irish moss)  

Strain and press out liquid                                                                                                                   

Add 200 ml honey and add all the Marshmallow syrup

Allow to cool 

When cold, add 1 ml each of Eucalyptus and Peppermint essential oil 

Keep refrigerated. Use within six months 

Comments are closed.